Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Toby's Flowers

Toby was our neighbor when we moved into this house about 15 years ago.  He was an old man already, born in Italy, and although it was an entirely different region from my roots ( he was from northern Italy, the origin of many Italians in this area who especially become dairy farmers, whereas my family came from east of Rome in the mountains near the Adriatic), to hear the language spoken was a breath of home for me.

  He was a talkative man, though the inflections of his English weren't always easy to understand, even for me.  But we soon learned that as a very young man he had been captured by the Nazis and held in a prisoner of war camp.  Towards the end of the war he and some other inmates escaped, and he soon came to the U.S.  Eventually he discovered that (for some reason I can't recall or never understood having to do with his parents) he was already a U.S. citizen.

Toby was the definition of house proud.  His house was (and so far still is) white with turquoise trim around windows and doors. I coveted that color.  He burned wood for heat, as was and to some extent still is common here, and the smell of wood smoke was part of our winter days. I would see him in the early mornings, his thin figure headed for his garage to chop and gather logs.  He grew flowers, his backyard has several always- populated bird houses, and back there he grew pear trees, though they decreased in number over the years.

After a brief illness, Toby died last winter.  His house has been vacant since, though members of his family are going to move in.  But something of Toby unexpectedly bloomed this spring and summer.  According to what he told Margaret, he'd seen these yellow flowers in a field across Sunset Avenue, and dug one plant up, replanted and then spread the seeds.  This year many of them bloomed, not only in the flower bed in front but also in the back along the border with our yard, in profusion.

I managed to snap a few photos of these yellow flowers before someone from his family got rid of most of them. (Unfortunately, the best photo was through the fence that he erected to keep out a persistent neighborhood cat--in vain.)  We also salvaged some seeds so we hope to have similar blooms.  I don't know what they're called, but to me they will always be Toby's flowers.  

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